Time Zone Travel: Adjusting Your Children

Time Zone Travel

time zone map usa


How does the saying go?  East is a beast; West is best.  Or is it the other way around?  I find it challenging to really understand which way to fly when you have children.  Time zone changes are inevitable.  Heck, it would be easier to stay home, but our adventurous selves would never allow that.  So my family of three (until April!) flew off to Seattle for our family “baby moon”.

Living in the Midwest and headed to the West Coast, meant we were in for a two hour time difference.  What a treat with a two and half year old!  Here is how we did it and what to keep in mind if you’re about to embark on a vacay in a different time zone:

First determine whether your length of vacation is worth the effort adjusting your child’s sleep schedule.  If your stay is under a week, it’s typically easier to keep your child on their home time zone.  For us in Seattle, E’s internal clock was telling her it was 7pm, but the Seattle clock says 5pm.  Yes, it can be a challenge at times, but if it works for you and your schedule, it’s easier than fighting her internal clock for a few days.

Whenever your child needs to sleep, it’s best to prepare their environment for the best sleep possible.  Read Holiday Travel Tips to help you pack for amazing sleep despite which direction you travel.

Be flexible, you’re on vacation!  Yes, our Seattle trip was much different if it would have just been my husband and I.  We value traveling with our child(ren) and know how life enriching it can be.  So, when enjoying time away from home, relax!  Compromise!  Be adaptable and know that when you return home you’ll have a few days of being strict to your child’s sleep, and they will be just fine!  Traveling always wins in my book!  🙂


How did E do with her two hour time difference…here is my diary!  

Our day started super early as we had to leave for the airport at 4:30am.  Thankfully E is always so happy when she wakes up, even if we have to wake her up.  She was ready for her airplane ride.  Throughout our travel duration, E never slept, and nor was I surprised (have you heard of the phrase: FOMO?  Fear of Missing Out.  That is E!)  We arrived in Seattle at 11am (1pm her body clock) and she was tired, but still in awesome spirits!  Our trip in from the airport, E fell asleep in the car…and 30 minutes later her nap was cut short from arriving at our hotel.  Checking in and prepping for our day, we hit the town at 1pm (3pm body clock).  After some fresh air and new sights, we were all getting a little sleepy…and hungry!  And in order to keep E on her home schedule, this meant we had to be home by 4pm Seattle time so she could prepare for bed.  What we quickly learned is that no one serves dinner at 3:30pm in Seattle.  HA!  Our bodies were ready to eat, but no sit-down restaurants were ready for customers.  Thankfully we found a happy hour to enjoy some Hors d’oeuvres, pasta, and oysters.  Then home and in bed by 6pm (which is 8pm our body clock time and later than normal bedtime for E).

4:41am (6:41am body clock).  Smiling, laughing, and chatting E is awake for the day.  Now you could cringe and be upset, but really, our bodies were also ready for the day.  The nice thing about relaxed holidays is the fact that you don’t have rush out of bed.  We enjoyed a lot of TV time, games and laughter in the next 3 hours as Seattle was not awake yet.  Time to be treasured.

7:30am (9:30am body clock).  We are starving and ready to head out for the day, so off we went!  The best part of being out at this time day is:  every breakfast and brunch spot is open with no wait, no crowds or lines, the only other people you meet on the street either have children or dogs; it’s extremely peaceful.  You even feel so accomplished by mid-morning.

10:30am (12:30pm body clock).  Back to the hotel we went for nap time.  Yeah, half of Seattle was STILL in bed, but we were headed back for nap time.  This is where it can be tricky when traveling, but I knew with a great nap, our day would be so much better and we could slightly extend E a bit past her normal bedtime (heck, we’re on vacation…it’s not all about rules!).

1pm (3pm body clock).  Seattle is awake and running for the day and we’re ready to join them!  Not to mention we felt like we had the WHOLE day ahead of us.  What a great feeling!!

5pm (7pm body clock).  Now this is typically E’s bedtime, but we decided that because she had such an awesome nap that she would be okay…and she was!  Out for a nice dinner we went.  We returned and E was in bed by 8pm (10pm body clock).

The best part of having a well-rested child is that they are very flexible!  She was 100% fine with this later bedtime, slept beautifully all night and even woke a little later the next morning, 6:15am (8:15am body clock).  The two hour, WEST, time difference wasn’t stopping us!
All-in-all, we had a fabulous time in Seattle.  We enjoyed the Chihuly Museum, Glassblowing Studio, Space Needle, Pike Place Market, a Ferry Ride and so much more!  Children and sleep don’t have to fully dictate how a vacation will go, as long you prepare.  In the end, I will always vote: TRAVEL!  Sleep will be fine.  🙂

You may be asking “what about a longer trip or a huge time zone change (think international travel)?!”  Look for that blog soon as we have ventured to Europe with E, and that experience is definitely one to write about!

Valerie Birch

Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant at Amazing Little Sleeper
Valerie Birch is a Pediatric Sleep Expert for exhausted families who have tried evvvvverything to get their child to sleep.

Through her informative and supportive blog posts and one-on-one help, she’s here to guide your child into restorative naps and peaceful nights - while making you wonder why you didn’t contact her sooner.

When she’s not consulting?You’ll find her hanging with her 2 children, getting her sweat on at the gym or baking and indulging in warm ooey-googey chocolate-chip cookies….hobbies that balance each other out!

Meet Valerie + prepare yourself for Amazing Sleep ahead…amazinglittlesleeper.com
Valerie Birch

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